Always Be Coding | How I Started A Software Developer Career

Always Be Coding is a life slogan that I have prospered by for a long time now.

I have been blessed with friends and family who knew my potential and always pushed me to stay focused and write the code. And I can testify that when I do follow their advice, the process yields amazing results and has furthered my career more than anything, including college.

I discovered the art of programming through a curiosity of how video games were put together. I got my first computer for Christmas in 1996 and I have had a love for building things ever since. I was fascinated by the endless possibilities that could be created just by typing a combination of words, number and symbols into a keyboard. Thus I set to build my first series of games, utilities, scripts, web pages, and more.

From the age of 10 to 16, I spent time studying about computer history, operating systems, programming languages, and data structures. I learned how to code GW-BASIC on a Compaq PC clone powered by an Intel 8088 processor. I moved on to QuickBasic and Turbo Pascal on a 386 with Windows 3.0, C and C++ on a 486 with Windows 95, and Python on an AMD Athlon with Red Hat Linux.

I released my first public game when I was 16 years old. AirPong is a Pong-like game against a basic AI that I wrote in order to learn 2D and 3D programming using OpenGL and SDL. The original website with the source code and Window XP executable is available at Sourceforge.

All of this practice served me well when I got to college. I was well prepared for my computer science and information systems classes thanks to my previous experience. The new ideas and more advanced  topics I did learn were applied to my hobby projects.

I released my second open-source project during my sophomore year of college a little over 10 years ago. The Kuartet Desktop project was a desktop user interface built using Python, the KDE Desktop, and Linux. The user experience incorporated ideas that would become mainstream a few years later on touchscreen phones and tables. Here is a screenshot:

By the time I finished my degree, I had developed a love for data modeling and database application development. I was able to complete an internship and a research grant in my senior year building applications using technologies like Microsoft SQL Server and ASP.NET as well as emerging cloud platforms like Amazon EC2 and Google App Engine.

This experience directly lead to my first job post-graduation: Oracle Application Developer. I worked in higher education for the next 5 years doing database management and application development. I embarked on a journey of self-training and learning in 2015 to pursue a full-time career as a web developer. Once again, the _always be coding _mindset would carry me to new territories and opportunities.

Free Code Camp became an invaluable source of exercises that pushed my understanding and use of the Javascript programming language. Their education platform, along with other web development learning options like Codecademy, provided a combination of practice area plus knowledge base through the interactive programming environments. The community at Free Code Camp gave an added bonus of networking with like-minded and aspiring web developers.

My first experience working in marketing began when I secured a web developer position. This transition from being primarily a back-end developer to a front-end developer included rapid training in Search Engine Optimization best practices and the basics of Digital Marketing. To gain more knowledge from professionals in the industry, I looked for a course on search engine optimization to expand my understanding of this important field of marketing. I found and completed an online course (Introduction to Search Engine Optimization, University of California, Davis) from Coursera.

I was able to build a better understanding of the value of setting, tracking, and analyzing goals using various SEO, SEM (Search Engine Marketing), and UX (User Experience) tools. Knowing what metrics to track and how to process the data given is key to proving a positive return on investment (and proving your worth) to any client.

In order to solidify this knowledge (and boost my resume), I set off to acquire certifications. Google announced the Google Mobile Sites certification in April of 2017  to go along with its Google Analytics and AdWords certifications. I became Google Mobile Sites and Google Analytics Certified after studying and passing the exams in June of 2017.

Overall, the experience reminded me that, even at the ripe old age of 31, striving to learn and practice my craft today is the most direct path to earning success tomorrow. I read every study guide and binge watched every video over the course of two weekends to achieve something I had been waiting accomplish. From progressive web apps to audience retargetting with Google Adwords, I dove into core topics in web and digital marketing industry that one must have mastery knowledge of. These certifications definitely helped me get closer to that goal.

Always Be Coding has served me well over the years. These are just examples of the projects that have lead to direct career success. I hope to continue to put the idea into practice to further push the limits of my knowledge, skills, and experience.